Book on Vajpayee-Advani

Ever since former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee captured the nation’s imagination as one of India’s best loved former PMs along with Jawaharlal Nehru, there has been a clamour for a definitive biography on the man and his politics. He was not just the BJP’s first Prime Minister but he also brought the RSS and the BJP on to the global stage. He of course could not have achieved this without L.K. Advani by his side. In his latest book, Vinay Sitapati (author of Half Lion, a biography on P.V. Narasimha Rao) takes a look at the six-decade-old friendship between BJP’s two stalwarts and also traces the rise of the party until the Modi era. Aptly titled Jugalbandi, the book will be out on 23 November, but is already creating a buzz. The book takes an in-depth look at the equation between two of the BJP’s founding fathers. As the press release says: It begins with the creation of Hindu nationalism as a response to British-induced elections in the 1920s, moves on to the formation of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1980, and ends with its first national government, from 1998 to 2004. However, when one attempts to write about Vajpayee there is a catch: his family has taken a decision not to speak on either his personal or political life. Some of his closest confidants are no more, from Brajesh Mishra, Jaswant Singh, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and George Fernandes to Ashok Saikia, yet, this is an era that needs to be captured and its story told, for with the rise of Modi the focus is once again on the BJP, its past and how it will shape future events, both the text and the context. Sitapati has a knack for story-telling, his book on Rao was easily one of the best ones on an era that saw liberalisation and the Babri demolition. His take on the Vajpayee-Advani years is as keenly awaited.

Cabinet Reshuffle Finally?

There is a buzz that the Prime Minister will reshuffle his Cabinet soon. This was a move that was slated for post the Bihar elections. Certainly there is an expectation that Jyotiraditya Scindia will be accommodated in the Cabinet, for he has delivered during the Madhya Pradesh bypolls. One thing is clear, Scindia is definitely a more effective campaigner from a BJP dais than he was on a Congress platform, for he has managed to win as many as 10 seats from the 16 that went to the polls from his region. However, there is some consternation after the PM’s comments on dynasts standing in the way of development. This has led to speculation about both Scindia and Chirag Paswan’s induction. However, those who know the PM say that he will keep his word to Scindia, for a ministerial berth was apparently part of the crossover package. More interesting would be to see if Himanta Biswa Sarma and Devendra Fadnavis make it to the Cabinet. Sarma has stated that he would not be contesting the next Assam Assembly polls. In other words, he has realised that the BJP will continue with Sarbananda Sonowal as its Chief Minister face. Will Modi reward Sarma and bring him to the Centre? Or will there be different yardsticks for Scindia and Sarma?

Delusional Politics, Anyone?

Hardeep Singh Puri wrote his book, Delusional Politics, on the eve of the 2019 elections, but something made me pick it up again during the recent US election. Maybe because he had (correctly) predicted the Trump win in 2016; the fact that Modi would better his 2014 score in 2019 and even the NDA win in Bihar that made me pick up the book again. It’s an interesting read for a student of politics, such as his observation on why Trump had clicked then: “Many had decided to take a chance on a candidate who campaigned on deliverables, no matter how egregious his proposals were. The system needed a shake up and they were offered a candidate who epitomised a sledgehammer ready to demolish the system and drain the swamp.” The US election was keenly followed in India with some of our right-wing hardliners supporting Trump over Biden. The irony however is that while the fallout of Covid saw the undoing of Donald Trump, it has only served to cement Prime Minister Modi’s position, as is clear from the Bihar win. Maybe it’s time for Puri to write a sequel; for the writer in him has just begun to clear his throat; as is clear from his newspaper columns, the latest one being an analysis of the Bihar elections which he feels were a “testament” to the BJP’s “development-oriented governance”. Watch this space.

Poll Talk

Post the Bihar results, when it was clear that all that Chirag Paswan had achieved was to cut into his bête-noir Nitish Kumar’s votes, there was understandably much resentment against him in the JDU camp. The BJP will probably accommodate Chirag in the Council of Ministers at the Centre, given the fact that Chirag fought the entire election claiming he carried Narendra Modi’s picture on his chest, if not his campaign posters. This also led to a JDU leader commenting that “Modiji ke Hanuman ne apni Ayodhya main hi aag laga di (Modi’s Hanuman burnt his own Ayodhya)”. Maybe not. Maybe the BJP is only too happy with the way the vote has fallen making it the larger party in the alliance. Well, we will soon know how Modi sees Chirag’s little rebellion, depending on the kind of ministry young Chirag will be given at the Centre.